Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan, an immigrant from China who was denied a US visa eight times, is now a billionaire after his company debuted on Nasdaq (Tom Huddleston Jr/CNBC)


When Eric Yuan was in his early 20s, he heard a speech from then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates about the promise of the internet, and Yuan decided he wanted to move from China to the US to be a part of the Silicon Valley tech boom.

Today, Yuan is the 49-year-old founder and CEO of videoconferencing cloud software company Zoom, which debuted on the Nasdaq exchange on Thursday in an IPO that currently values the company at more than $16 billion.

In 1994, Yuan was just out of college and working in Japan for a few months at the same time that Gates was in that country to give a speech. At the time, Gates was in his late 30s himself, and Microsoft was still a year away from releasing its Internet Explorer web browser as part of the Windows 95 operating system.

In an interview with GGV Capital last year, Yuan simply remembers that he was “inspired by this speech” that Gates delivered in Japan on the future of the internet, which was then not yet as ubiquitous as it is today.

The talk reignited something in Yuan that he had been thinking about for a few years already.